The singing superstar talks about latest album, My Life II, at The Pool at Harrah's in Atlantic City during a Nov. 26 appearance.
ATLANTIC CITY — When Mary J. Blige released her breakthrough album My Life in 1994, recording a sequel to the intensely personal collection of songs was never her goal or intention.
It was supposed to be a one-and-done project, and for 17 years and through seven more albums, that’s exactly what it was: a stand-alone, Grammy-nominated effort that put Blige on the charts and in the minds of a growing legion of worldwide fans.
“I never wanted to do another My Life album,” Blige says.
Last year, however, Blige took a step back, looked at her life and the world surrounding it, and decided it was time to revisit My Life with a fresh perspective.
And so My Life II: The Journey Continues (Act 1) was born. The follow-up album that was never supposed to happen was released Nov. 21, and Blige offered a simple explanation as to why she looked at her past to help her develop the music of the future.
She discovered there was a common thread — a consistency — that bridged the first My Life album to the follow-up.
“[In] the first My Life album, there was a lot going on in our lives and it wasn’t all positive,” Blige tells Atlantic City Weekly during a chat prior to an album launch party at The Pool After Dark at Harrah’s Resort on Saturday, Nov. 26.
“So there has been a lot of growth and evolution since then. The beautiful thing about now is that we can look back at that album and look at how strong we are and how much we’ve conquered and come through, and that’s the reason for [My Life II] now.”
Although songs on the original album focused more on Blige’s early life and personal struggles with clinical depression, drug and alcohol abuse and an abusive relationship, the new album speaks to problems affecting many people.
The hip-hop scented collection of R&B songs, performed by Blige and a veritable who’s who of modern music including Kanye West, Jay-Z, Timbaland and Alicia Keys, is about the “struggle to get to the next level,” she says.
“[It’s about] the breakthrough and then the trial, so now at a time like this, when there’s recession and war, people need that healing and that love and that understanding from a record,” she says. “Music used to make people feel great, and that’s why now, because it’s time.”
Although the music is personal, Blige admits it connects with her fans because many of them have been through the same trials and tests she endured as a child and as an emerging artist.
The album “is mostly for my fans and I and anyone who wants to be involved,” she says.
Critics have already heaped praise on My Life II, and more than one has suggested the new album offers competition for the original as to which is the better product. Blige bristled at the thought the new album is competing with the old one. She made it clear that the first album was — and always will be — a very special project.
“It was never meant to be a competition,” she says firmly. “It was only meant to be an extension of the first My Life album, because there is no competition for the first My Life album.”
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The 40-year-old multi-Grammy Award winner sang her 1994 album My Life in its entirety, including the songs "I'm Going Down," "Be Happy," "Mary Jane (All Night Long)" and "You Bring Me Joy."
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